Archive for September, 2013

Vermeer Stamps

September 14th, 2013

For some reason unknown to me, the love for Vermeer’s art can express itself in unusual forms.

vermeer_stamp_02

Oskar Maria Baksalary (Institute of Physics, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan) and George P.H. Styan (Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGil University, Montreal), the authors of “Some Comments on the Diversity of Vermeer Paintings Depicted on Postage Stamps,” have determined that, as of 2007, 20 Vermeer paintings have been represented on postage stamps issued by 29 countries. The team applied Fisher’s index of bio diversity to compare the diversity of Vermeer paintings depicted on postage stamps with diversity of two other data sets.

The conclusion, which I trust is accurate, is the following:

And so we see that Vermeer stamps from the South Pacific are the least diverse ( = 1 : 59), while the Vermeer stamps from Europe are the most diverse ( = 19 : 95). Williams’s Nigerian hawk-moths are about in the middle of the bio diversity index range ( = 9 : 03 ), just below Vermeer stamps from the Middle East ( = 9 : 86).

The study affords a touching glimpse into what drew the first author to Vermeer. Click here to access the PDF document.

When getting it right is too easy

September 7th, 2013

One of the pleasures of being a painter is being able (more or less) to copy paintings you love or are interested in. Since I had seven Vermeers (by my count five and a half) at a 35-minute walk from my home here in Rome last year (and free entrance), I took some time off and made three copies: the NG Lady Standing Lady at the Virginals, the NGA The Girl with a Red Hat and the newly attributed Young Woman at the Virginal (New York private collection).

my-rolin

The London experience was dreadful. Although I cheated by projecting the drawing onto the canvas, had a state-of-the-art digital image of the Lady Standing Lady at the Virginals on my studio monitor and could check my progress by viewing at the original any time I wished, things went wrong. The make-or-break tonal values broke down. The contours looked weary, the modeling exhausted and even the local colors, which in theory should be approachable, were off key. Yes, time does things to paintings that no painter can do, but after 40+ years at the easel, I though I could do better.

The Girl with a Red Hat went better—in the beginning. I got the hat glazed properly and was foolish enough to take a deep breath and whack in the background all at once, spontaneously, as it should be done. Not bad. Obviously, I postponed doing the face for as long possible knowing it is one of Vermeer’s most finessed. But when I finally threw caution to the wind and attempted to approximate the play of silvery greens and pinks that make the lady glow, I got something like a face made with dark and light mud.

Last try, the New York picture: a work I do not admire and really don’t want a copy of. But since I am doing a lengthy analysis on the miniscule painting, I decided it would be a good idea to walk in Vermeer’s shoes to see what might have caused him (or whoever made it) to paint such an unsual work. What surprised me is that I didn’t get any surprises. Things went as expected. The grays were straightforward grays, the yellow was yellow and the uniformly non-descript brown shadows were very nondescript. Contours were easy (evenly sharp, the easiest to do) and the tonal values were hardly challenging. Yes, my background gray is a bit too light (maybe that’s better), the cheeks did not come out pink enough and I couldn’t bring myself to make the shadows of the face as dark as the original’s, but the painting presented no technical nuance that was substantially not within the reach of my modest talents. These are shoes I can wear.

Now that I have three Vermeers for myself, I’ll keep two turned to the wall for the moment and one framed, but hung somewhere in my house where I won’t see it too much.

Getty Loosens digital image policy

September 7th, 2013
terbrugghes-face

As is enevitable, image-rights policies of art institutions continue to loosen up.

The Getty President Jim Cuno announced in a post on The Iris that it is lifting restrictions on the use of images to which the Getty holds all the rights or are in the public domain.

“As of today, the Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds all the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose,” wrote Cuno, citing the new program.

Approximately 4,600 images of paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities and sculpture and decorative arts from the J. Paul Getty Museum will available in high resolution on the Getty’s website for use without restriction. Other images will be added until all Getty-owned or public domain images are available, without restrictions, online.

Art buffs should not miss the delightful Dutch paintings in the Getty Collection. Links to a few are posted below. To download the hi-res image, click on the “download” link directly under the thumbnail image of each painting.

The Music Lesson by Gerrit ter Borch
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=113249

Pictura (An Allegory of Painting) by Frans van Mieris
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=822

Head of a Woman
by Michael Sweerts
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=788

Double Portrait
by Michael Sweerts
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=896

A Woman Preparing Bread and Butter for a Boy
by Pieter de Hooch
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=852

My favorite is, however, Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Bacchante and Ape (6534 x 7548 pixels!)
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=845

Beware, Ter Brugghen’s technique is so utterly efficient that ipainting look easy. Even with 40+ years of easel paint under my belt, it is still a discouraging painting to look at it. Sometimes I envy art historians.

Vermeer again star of the silver screen

September 1st, 2013
vermeer_music_film

Vermeer and Music
In cinemas worldwide on October 10 & varying dates

The National Gallery, London, is offering a fresh look at one of the most startling and fascinating artists of all – Johannes Vermeer, painter of the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. The National Gallery has chosen to focus on Vermeer’s relationship with music. It is one of the most popular themes of Dutch painting and reveals an enormous amount about the sitter and the society they lived in. New research, revealed for the first time at this exhibition, shows how his technique and materials affected his works.

Tim Marlow, a British writer, broadcaster and art historian best known for his regular feature on Channel Five – Marlow On Style, goes beyond the exhibition to tell the entire story of Vermeer’s life – and, in doing so, shows in HD detail many other of the artist’s captivating works.

To book tickets go to the the find-a-venue page.

Vermeer and Technique: a National Gallery web study

September 1st, 2013
vermeer-eye

Click here to discover the techniques and materials behind four of Vermeer’s music-themed paintings on display in the exhibition Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure.

Illuminating and richly illustrated. All articles are authored by the National Gallery’s Helen Howard, Scientific Officer – Microscopist; David Peggie, Scientific Officer – Organic Analyst; and Rachel Billinge, Research Associate in the Conservation department.

Topics include:

Support and ground
Infrared examination
Vermeer’s palette
Binding medium
Paint application
Secrets of the studio
Altered appearance of ultramarine
Fading of yellow and red lake pigments
Drying and paint defects
Formation of lead and zinc soaps

from the National Gallery website:
The extended loan of Vermeer’s The Guitar Player from Kenwood House enabled National Gallery researchers to analyse the painting’s materials and closely study the techniques used. The findings were compared with other late paintings by Vermeer in the National Gallery (A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal and A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal), and a slightly earlier work (The Music Lesson) kindly lent by the Royal Collection for the National Gallery’s 2013 summer exhibition Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure.

 

Two Hi-Res images of Vermeer Paintings

September 1st, 2013
zoomify-vermeer3

For hi-res buffs who need a fix and scholars who need more than something than the same old printed images to go on, two new hi-res images of Vermeer paintings are now available on the net. The Guitar Player, which also can be viewed with the IIPMooViewer at the National Gallery website, is now entirely downloadable at Wikipedia. Click here. The images is a whopping 3,691 × 4,226 pixels. Examine the bizarre calligraphic touches of the gilt frame and the sound hole of the guitar: Vermeer at his best, at least for a painter like myself. For the curious, along the upper edge of the painting there are two fingerprints: whose?

The second hi-res image, A Lady Writing a letter with her Maid, is tucked away on the National Gallery of Ireland website and, unfortunately, cannot be downloaded like The Guitar Player. Click here to view it 750 x 350 pixels at a time at with the ubiquitous  Zoomify interface.

Vermeer-related study

September 1st, 2013

From Perception to Paint: the practical use of the Camera Obscura in the time of Vermeer
Jane Jelley
in Art and Perception
July 2013

janejelly

There has been much debate as to whether Vermeer himself would have used any kind of optical aid in the execution of his paintings. The paintings themselves appear to show optical effects and distortions, seen only through a lens and not with the naked eye. Was Vermeer just influenced by the view through a camera, or did he transfer the projected images directly to his paintings?

Jane Jelly’s experiment shows a method that would have made transfers from a projection to a canvas a practical possibility, using readily available materials and contemporary technology. This technique not only solves the problems of the reversals of camera obscura images, but significantly, the resultant transfers from the lens show striking resonances with Vermeer’s own underpainting, revealed by scientific analysis. This research also provides some answers about the use of particular materials in the 17th-century studio.

click here to download PDF